According to Mark Twain regarding New England weather, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it’ll change”. We think the weather changes frequently in New England, and it does daily and seasonally, but the weather’s rate of change pales in comparison to the constant and never-ending changes taking place on a construction site. As the job progresses, new construction site hazards present themselves and it is loss control’s job to help identify those hazards.
Construction sites change by the minute as work progresses, equipment and tools are moved, various trades come and go, and materials are delivered and then moved about the site. And on top of all that you can add Mr. Twain’s changing weather conditions.
These constant changes create ever changing hazards and can expose the workers, the equipment, the site work underway, and the even the public to potential losses. Federal and state regulatory requirements created by OSHA, DOT, EPA, DOS, etc. can help control those hazards, but these are minimum standards enforced through fines, often levied months after completing jobsite inspections and aimed at regulatory infractions.
In contrast to these federal and state inspectors, insurance company loss control representatives visit jobsites for other reasons. Although interested in meeting regulatory requirements, we are most interested in how these sites are managed, because active safety management programs enable a contractor to anticipate and plan for the constant changes. So let’s quickly look at why we visit construction sites and, when there, what do we look for?
Why do we visit construction sites? There may be many reasons including:
1 – At a main office survey, we will discuss the customer’s operations and safety programs then view job files, contractual risk transfer (CRT) controls, and other records that can give us an indication of safety programs and efforts to control exposures and losses. Discussion in an office is one thing, but we need to determine if those programs and controls are actually implemented and functioning on site. A jobsite visit(s) enables us to verify operations, view hazards and controls, and meet with key site personnel to verify and/or evaluate safety program implementation or additional needs.
2 – We may be working with account management to implement further controls over a specific hazard (e.g. fall protection, Personal Protective Equipment [PPE] use, proper trenching controls, traffic control, etc.). After management has created and rolled out controls through training site management and workers, we will visit jobsites as an audit step to view and evaluate actual implementation specific to those hazards and controls.
3 – Management may be actively involved with their safety efforts then ask us to visit an agreed-upon number of jobsites over the policy year. Sometimes contractors see the same workers daily performing the same work with the same equipment and become accustomed to that view. Over time, short cuts may be taken, bad habits developed, hazards go uncorrected, etc. We can provide a fresh look through other eyes that may be needed to identify those short cuts or changes that may have been overlooked.
4 – We all have finite resources, so when a loss trend is identified we may visit jobsites to further evaluate the operations and hazards specific to that trend then work with management on controls for those specific hazards.
Loss Control representatives have many reasons to visit a jobsite, but what exactly are we looking for? What do we want to see? The answers will vary depending on the reason for the visit, but effective management controls are very important so we may ask for evidence of those controls in the form of written safety programs, planning records, inspections, accident investigations, and/or training records. Let’s look at some of these.
1 – Safety Programs. Because they are usually contractually responsible for the project, the General Contractor (GC) often controls the entire project, including safety. They should have a safety program in place that may be general in nature or site-specific. A subcontractor should also have some form of a safety program in place. For both the subcontractor and the GC, the length and level of detail of a program may vary with the size of a project and/or complexity of their work, but at the very basic, the safety program should cover the scope of their work, the hazards present and safety management.
2 – Planning and Communication – GCs should conduct a pre-job meeting with all subcontractors to cover scheduling, safety program expectations and requirements (communications, training, inspections, rules, regulations, PPE, accident reporting & investigations, enforcement, documentation, etc.), site access and security, materials delivery & storage, contractual requirements, and any other topics applicable to a safe and efficient construction project. In addition, they should hold weekly meetings with all trade leads on the job that week to discuss the weekly schedule, changes that may impact operations that week, issues, safety, etc.
3 – Site Inspections – These illustrate management’s commitment to providing a safe working environment and findings/observations should be well documented – with the general thought being that if it wasn’t documented it wasn’t done. Inspections are also critical to keep up with the ongoing site changes and any hazards created by those changes. The inspection program should indicate who will conduct the inspections (GC, subs, or both), frequency, corrective action, and documentation requirements.
As noted earlier, construction sites change by the minute, so site inspections are extremely important. In addition to the formal documented inspections mentioned above, informal inspections should constantly take place by site management by watching for safety issues every time they walk the site. Corrections should be made as problems are identified with documentation kept in a jobsite log or daily ledger.
4 – Accident Records – Accident reporting forms should be available with the requirement that any injury must be reported immediately and the form fully completed and submitted to the GC. Copies of any completed forms should be available on site for review. Suggestions for corrective action(s) is perhaps the most important part of this form from a Loss Control viewpoint.
5 – Site Training – Documented training should be taking place as a minimum in the form of weekly toolbox meetings. There should be records available on site of dates and topics with signed attendance sheets. Copies of OSHA 10 cards for employees should also be maintained when required by contract.
6 – Documentation – Documentation of jobsite management and safety is crucial when it comes to federal or state regulatory scrutiny, but it also can help claims adjusters when investigating a covered loss. These records can be in electronic or paper form and should include contracts, subcontractor agreements, job specifications, signed change orders, site logs or ledgers, inspections, training, accident investigations, photographs, etc. Many GCs require, or are beginning to require, their subs to interface with them electronically. This saves time and money with no need to maintain rooms full of paper records that may get lost or destroyed.
There are numerous programs tying together electronic devices (laptops, tablets, phones) to complete and store all jobsite records. Electronic change orders can be quickly handled (created, signed, and stored) between architects, engineers, GC, and subs. I recently visited a high-end home under construction. On a tablet, the GC showed me contracts, subcontractor agreements, certificates of insurance, billing information, invoices, change orders, inspections, and over a thousand photographs of the job taken daily by cell phone by the superintendent.
Federal and state inspectors will cite contractors for regulatory violations but typically won’t give advice on how to correct an operation or hazard to avoid future fines. Insurance company loss control representatives, depending on their knowledge and experience, should be able to offer such advice to help a customer protect its most important asset – its employees.
All Acadia Insurance policyholders have access to assistance to meet safety needs through one of our experienced Loss Control Representatives and/or our Virtual Loss Control team. We can help customers create written safety programs tailored to their operations and needs and also assist with employee safety training with services that include free online streaming video service.
Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness. Distribution of this information does not constitute an assumption by us of your obligations to provide a safe workplace. Maintaining a safe workplace in accordance with all laws is your responsibility. We make no representation or warranty that our activities or recommendations will place you in compliance with law, relieve you of potential liability or ensure your premises or operations are safe. We exercise no control over your premises or operations and have no responsibility or authority to implement loss prevention practices or procedures.